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Dog prepares for cross-country trek for heart surgery

By Staff | Aug 5, 2011

Mike, a six-month-old Brittany spaniel, rests his head in foster care owner Marianne Davis's hands. Davis and Clifford Sanbongi hope to raise enough money for Mike to undergo heart surgery in California. (Chronicle photo by Mary Stortstrom)

Not all dogs come from pet stores, and not every dog is in perfect health.

Mike, a dog in foster care in Shepherdstown, will go on a cross-country journey to get heart surgery.

Shepherdstown residents Clifford Sanbongi and Marianne Davis work with National Brittany Rescue and Adoption to raise Brittany spaniels in foster care.

Mike is a six-month-old Brittany spaniel that Sanbongi and Davis received through the organization. Davis believes he was dumped by a breeder because he has a heart condition.

“We took him to some wonderful people at the Chesapeake Valley Cardiology Associates. They determined that he has a faulty valve from his aorta,” Davis said.

The veterinarians at Chesapeake Valley Cardiology told Davis that Mike might benefit from heart surgery, so Sanbongi and Davis are raising money to take Mike to the University of California-Davis for a heart surgery procedure.

Sanbongi and Davis housebreak, train and socialize dogs that are brought to them by the larger Brittany rescue organization. They also make sure the dogs are in good physical and mental health before they go to a new owner.

“The rescue organization takes dogs out of shelters,” Davis said. “They take them from shelters; they take them from owner surrenderers. They also take dogs from less fortunate conditions.”

Davis said that she and Sanbongi have received dogs that were seized from the living conditions of negligent owners, but that most of the time the dogs are taken from animal shelters or situations where the owner has given up the dog.

After Sanbongi and Davis keep a dog in foster care, new owners can adopt it from an online adoption website.

“People go on the site and look for a dog that may be close to them,” Sanbongi said. “There’s a transport every weekend. People are willing to drive the dog to get them where they have to be.”

Davis said that the potential parents go through a background check by the rescue organization. She said the organization checks previous vet records and has someone in the area go inspect the house and talk to the prospective owners.

Davis said that the national association has a fundraising appeal for Mike’s surgery and trip going through its Facebook page, and that the National Brittany Rescue and Adoption Network is a licensed nonprofit, so donations made are tax-deductible.

Sanbongi will soon make the trek to California with Mike for vets at UC-Davis to make the Brittany’s heart anew.

“(Once this is over) we hope to have a sound dog,” she said. “Then someone will break our hearts by adopting him.”